Just When You Think the Nationals Couldn't Embarrass Themselves Any More…

Josh McMullenCorrespondent IApril 19, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 10: Outfielder Elijah Dukes #34 of Washington Nationals runs to first base against the Atlanta Braves April 10, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A $500 fine, being benched for a game, and possibly facing demotion to the minor leagues.

What did the player do? Did he miss practice? Did he get kicked out of a game?

No…none of those things happened to Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes. He got all of the punishments mentioned above for being five minutes late to the Nationals’ scheduled report time.

Now I can understand that in light of Tom Coughlin’s almost-as-stringent rules, but wait until you hear why he was late.

Dukes was late because he was doing charity work–for the Nationals, no less, for Little League. He faces a demotion, was fined $500 and benched for today’s game against the Marlins, just for helping little kids turn to baseball.

Manager Manny Acta told the Washington Post the rhyme and reason behind his insane actions:

“He was late for work, he broke a team rule, and we are going to change the culture here—regardless of how well a guy is playing,” Acta said. “And it was a bizarre situation, because he was doing something that we encourage our players to do: He was out in the community doing something for some Little League program and just showed up late to work. He was very remorseful about it. He felt bad, but we have to lay the law on whoever.”

Careful, Manny…”laying down the law” like that probably will make you the first manager fired this year. That’s like me getting an “F” on a paper I didn’t turn in on time because I was down at the soup kitchen. It’s just not right.

On top of that, the Nationals are 1-10 so far and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better.

Now they’re considering embarrassing themselves further by demoting one of their best players who is trying to get his life on the right track after a history of domestic disputes when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Does this look like a ball club that is ready to be a potential World Series contender?

It looks more like a team that will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by June.

UPDATE (April 21): The Little League organization that Dukes appeared for has said they will fundraise the $500 fine. Actually, the total they will try to fundraise, according to their president, Jim Mraz, is $501--$1 for "administrative expenses." "We're just trying to send a message to our kids: He was here for us. Now we've got to be there for him." Mraz said about the fundraiser.